The November 2 city council election saw a shakeup of the city council with 2 Democrat incumbents losing their council seats. In District 1, progressive democrat Land Sena was replaced by a moderate Democrat Louis Sanchez. In District 5 moderate Democrat Cynthia Borrego was replaced by highly conservative Republican Dan Lewis who ran for Mayor 4 years ago and lost to Tim Keller.
The December 7 run off in City Council District 7 is between Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn running against Republican Lori Robertson. District 9 is the Mid-heights including the state fairgrounds area, Coronado Shopping Center and Uptown surrounding areas and parts of the near northeast heights. In the District 9 City Council race, Democrat Rob Grilley is running against Republican Renee Grout. District 9 includes the Far Southeast Heights and the Southeast Central corridor area and the Four Hills Country Club area.
Despite the majority of candidates qualifying for public finance for the November 2 election, there were 2 major measured finance committees (MFCs) that were formed to promote city council candidates opposing incumbent Democrat City Councilors Lan Sena and Cynthia Borrego who both lost on November 2. The two measured finance committees are Albuquerque Ahead and Healthy Economies Lead to Progress.
Albuquerque Ahead raised $34,900 and Healthy Economies Lead to Progress raised $196,532 for a total of $231,432. The cash contributions were spent to promote 3 conservative Republican candidates, Dan Lewis, Renee Grout and Lori Lee Robertson, and one 1 moderate Democrat, Louis Sanchez. The 2 finance committees were successful in ousting Democrat City Councilors Lan Sena and Cynthia Borrego.
After the November 2 election, there are 4 Democrats on the new city council:
District 1 Louis Sanchez (Elected on November 2 defeating Lan Sena.)
District 2 Isaac Benton
District 3 Klarissa Peña (Ran unopposed on November 2 .)
District 6 Pat Davis
After the November 2 election, the 3 Republicans on the new city council are:
District 5 Dan Lewis (Newly elected)
District 4 Brook Bassan
District 8 Trudy Jones
REPUBLICANS CRAWL OUT OF WOODWORK AS DEMOCRATS WAKE UP TO NEW REALITY
It was under Republican Mayor Richard Berry that the Republicans had a majority of 6 to 3 in 2010 on the Albuquerque City Council. That Republican majority changed in the election cycles of 2013 and 2017 after which Democrats took the advantage with a 6-3 majority as the city became more democrat.
It is absolutely clear that the Republican party is making a serious attempt to secure a majority of 5-4, but it will require winning of the District 7 and District 9 city council races in the runoff. On November 10, the Republican Party of New Mexico and the Republican Party of Bernalillo County issued a press release announcing they are joining forces and sharing resources to win two key runoff elections on December 7.
The Republican joint press release states in part:
“Albuquerque’s City Council is poised to see a change in power. District 7 Council candidate Lori Robertson and District 9 Council candidate Renee Grout are in runoff elections. If they win, conservatives will hold the majority on the Albuquerque City Council for the first time in nearly a decade.
RPNM officials recently met with Bernalillo County leaders, and they decided it was all hands-on deck to ensure Robertson and Grout are elected.
RPNM and RPBC will work as a team, knocking on doors, making phone calls, distributing campaign literature and sending out flyers. An army of volunteers is being assigned to motivate voters and get them out to the polls next month. A joint get out the vote campaign is already underway.
This shared mission demonstrates that RPNM and RPBC are 100% focused on working with both campaigns to ensure victory on election day,” said Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce. “It’s vital that our organizations work together to build unity and consensus to elect both conservative candidates to City Council. Republican momentum is building in New Mexico and across the nation, and we will seize these opportunities everywhere we can.
Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman John Rockwell says the cooperation has inspired the Party as a whole.
“It’s always important to operate with the State Party,” Rockwell said. “We are working hard to win these runoffs. We’ve got to change our way of governing and must change the people in charge. We have an opportunity to take control of the Albuquerque Council, and this could mean great things for the future of the city. We have to do everything we can to grow our base and to get more Republicans involved.”
Both Robertson and Grout say they’re excited about the two organizations working together to get them elected.
“It’s been great having everyone pull together,” said Robertson. “It’s time for real change in Albuquerque. The city has so many problems, and it’s time for positive change and to work for a common cause. We have dozens of volunteers who are helping deliver our conservative message, and we are pushing hard to get out the vote. The pendulum has swung too far left. We need common sense solutions and long-term goals.”
The Bernalillo County Republican Party is already soliciting poll workers. On November 13 the Republicans had their first canvas walks for Robertson and Grout.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND MAYOR TIM KELLER FACE RUDE AWAKENING
The New Mexico Democratic Party (DPNM) has finally caught on to what the Republicans have been up to since the get go and it may be too late. DPNM Executive Director Sean Ward said:
“[The Democratic Party is working] across New Mexico to effectively promote Fiebelkorn and Grilley. … It’s essential that we elect leaders to the Albuquerque City Council who will make the best choices for our schools, our families, and our neighborhoods.”
Confidential sources have said that progressive Democrat Mayor Tim Keller was very upset with the fact that both the Democrat State and County party did very little to help him with his election to a second term. Keller complained that the Democratic party did not even come close to helping as much as they did 4 years ago. Keller was reported as calling previous financial supporters in an attempt to “mend fences” and was discouraged by the response. Keller was also said to be upset that many reliable donors he had in years past were nowhere to be found when it came to donating to the measured fiancé committee “Build Back Burque” that was created to promote and raise money to promote him. “Build Back Burque” raised and spent a disappointing $113,500. It was very disappointing because 4 years ago, “ABQ Forward”, the measure finance committee set up to promote Keller raised and spent $663,000 on his behalf.
Conspicuously absent in the 2021 Mayor’s race was also a litany of major endorsements for Keller from Democrats with the exceptions being US Senator Martin Heinrich and Attorney General Hector Balderas. Two term Democrat City Council Diane Gibson was also known to support Democrat Manny Gonzales over Tim Keller after Keller repeatedly snubbed and ignored her during the last 4 years. Gibson has endorsed Tammy Fiebelkorn to replace her, but such endorsements usually have little or no effect on City Council races. Gibson has also alienated many of her constituent’s, especially when she voted more times than not to support Republican Mayor Berry’s initiatives such as the ART Bus project. Gibson actually said at a neighborhood association meeting she was “tired of carrying Berry’s water” on the ART Bus project.
Confidential sources have also confirmed that defeated Incumbent City Councilors Lan Sena and Cynthia Borrego believe that the State and County Democratic party did very little if not absolutely nothing to help them when it came to volunteers and financial support. Democrat Borrego, as President of the City Council, in particular, was reported as being insulted by the Democratic State Party when the party expected her to give major financial support to the party even as she was serving as City Council President and also seeking to get elected to another term and having an uphill battle.
LOW VOTER TURN OUT ELECTIONS
According to the New Mexico secretary of State’s office, the total Bernalillo County registration number, which includes all of Albuquerque, is 445,728. That number is broken down as follows:
Democratic: 209,681 (47.0 %)
Republican: 123,632 (27.7 %)
Libertarian: 4,810 (1.1 %)
No party/independent: (102,855) 23.1 %
This year’s 2021 municipal election had the highest voter turnout in the last 20 years with 32% of registered voters voting. In the 2021 municipal elections, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Albuquerque with 175,830 registered democrats in the city to 99,988 register Republicans in the city.
The 2021 municipal election saw upwards of 22,000 more voters over the 2017 election. According to the Bernalillo County clerk’s office, 120,847 voters cast their votes out of the 371,449 registered voters. Keller won with 56% of the final vote (66,051), Sheriff Manny Gonzales secured 26% (30,139) of the final vote and Eddy Aragon secured 18% (21,654) of the vote and write in candidate Patrick B. Sais secured 294 votes, less than half of 1%.
In the 2021 municipal election, Republicans voted at a higher rate citywide with 38.75% of registered Republicans voting compared with 36.72% of Democrats voting. Voter turnout was highest in the Northeast Heights District 8 represented by Republican Trudy Jones at 39% and in District 4 represented by Republican Brook Bassam at 35.3% even though neither councilor was on this year’s ballot. The Southwest Albuquerque District 3 represented by incumbent Klarisa Pena, who ran unopposed, had the lowest turnout, with only 17.8% of registered voters participating. Incumbent Mayor Tim Keller won all 9 city council districts by comfortable margins.
The explanation for the historical turnout in 2021 is that New Mexico law was changed that consolidated local elections that that increased the voter turnout. This year’s municipal election was not conducted by the city clerk but conducted by the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office. The 2021 ballot featured the mayor’s race, 5 city council races and voter bond approval of multiple bonds, including one for a soccer stadium. The 2021 ballot also had the the Albuquerque Public Schools, Central New Mexico Community College, the Village of Tijeras, the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District on the ballot and more.
PAST ELECTIONS WORTH REMEBERING
In 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller was elected Mayor by first beating all of 7 of his opponents to get into a runoff when only a total 97,971 registered voters voted. Keller got into the 2017 runoff securing 38,156, or 39.9% of the vote and Dan Lewis who secured 22,238 votes or 22.3%. Keller went on to win the 2017 runoff by a decisive landslide by securing 60,219 votes or 62.20% against Dan Lewis who secured 36,594 or 37.8% of the vote. Although Keller’s final 2017 runoff mayor’s race victory margin was impressive what was not impressive is that only 97,399 voted or 29% out of over 300,000 registered voters.
In the 2017 Mayor’s race, then State Auditor Tim Keller was the only candidate that qualified for public finance. According to campaign finance reports, Tim Keller was given a total of $506,254 in public finance combined for the first election and the runoff and he collected $37,870 in “in kind” donations. Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, Keller had 3 measured finance committees that either raised money directly to spend on his behalf or that indirectly spent money and supported him financially. ABQ Forward Together was the measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor and it was managed by Tim Keller’s former campaign managers for his State Senate runs Neri Olguin. In the 2021 election Olguin was Keller’s campaign manager.
In 2017 ABQ Forward Together raised $663,000, with major contributions from organized labor including city unions such as AFSME. The measured finance committee ABQFIREPAC, organized by the City’s local Fire Union raised $67,000 with that money spent to help not only Keller but also Democrat City Council candidates. ABQFIREPAC spent at least $25,000 for a TV commercial benefiting Keller, yards signs and a freeway billboard. The measured finance committee ABQ Working Families also supported Tim Keller and raised $122,000 and has $22,000 remaining. Broken down, at least $1,169,254 minimum was been spent on Tim Keller’s campaign for Mayor in 2017 ($506,254 public finance money + $663,000 ABQ Forward = $1,169,254 total). Broken down further, a maximum of $1,358,254 was potentially spent on Tim Keller’s campaign for Mayor ($506,254 public finance money + $663,000 ABQ Forward + $67,000 ABQFIREPAC + $122,000 ABQ Working Families = $1,358,254.)
The 2013 Albuquerque Mayor’s race was the lowest voter turnout in the city’s history with only 70,473 voting, or a miserable 19%, out of a little more 300,000 registered voters. Two Republicans, incumbent Richard Berry and retired APD Sargean Paul Heh and one Democrat, Pete Dinelli, qualified to be on the ballot. Democrat former Albuquerque first lady Margaret Aragon de Chavez withdrew from the race. Former Democrat Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico Diane Denish and Democrat City Councilor Ken Sanchez, who passed away on January 1, 2021 declined to run that year. In 2013, then Republican incumbent Mayor Richard Berry won the Mayor’s race garnering 48,008 votes or 68.12% votes with Democrat Pete Dinelli garnering 20,248 votes or 28.73% and Republican Paul Heh securing 2,217 votes or 3.15%.
In the 2013 Mayor’s race, Democrat candidate Pete Dinelli qualified for public fiancé and was given $340,00 for the campaign. Duke City Rising, the measure finance committee formed to promote Democrats raised upwards of $60,000 but spent very little on the Mayor’s race and instead used it to help and promote almost exclusively Democrat City Council Candidates. Despite a commitment to raise funding of upwards of $150,000 by then Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman for Duke City Rising to help in the Mayor and City Council races, only office space was given. Then Democrat Party Chairman Bregman reneged on his promise to raise money and asked Democrat Dinelli to raise money for the Democratic party instead. Democrat United States Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall at the time declined to get involved with the Mayor’s race saying they did not endorse in municipal elections and yet later endorsed Democrats in city council run off elections and allowed their names to be placed on a flyer promoting Democrat City Councilor Diane Gibson saying she had “friends in high places”.
In the 2013 mayor’s race, Republican Richard Berry raised and spent $1.1 million in private financing. For a supposedly nonpartisan race, Mayor Berry’s 2013 private finance contributors list was very top heavy with prominent Republican donors and heavy hitters including:
The Republican National Committee ($10,000 donation), Brewer Oil Company ($5,000 donation), Western Refining Company ($5,000 donation), Pete Domenici, Jr., Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates, former State Senator Micky Barnett, Ed Lujan, Bill Sego, Don Chalmbers, Jon Barela, Lt Governor John Sanchez, Margaret and Turner Branch, former City Councilors Nadine Bicknel, Herb Hughs and Michael Brasher, Republican State Representative Larry Larrinaga, Representative Nate Gentry, Republican political operative Sherman McCorkle who headed Berry’s transition team in 2009, Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones, PNM Executive John Ackerman, Bob Stamm of Bradberry and Stamm Construction, Jack Stahl, former PNM President Gerry Geist, Representative Justin Fox Young, advertiser and former candidate for Governor Doug Turner, National Association of Industrial And Office Parks(NAIOP), New Mexico Chapter, and many Economic Forum members just to mention a few.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
There is an old saying in New Mexico politics, “As goes Albuquerque’s vote, so goes the state.” History has shown the city of Albuquerque has always played a major role in electing Republicans over Democrats in state races. Republican Governors David Cargo, Gary Caruthers, Gary Johnson and Susana Martinez. The many elections of Republican US Senator Pete Domenici and Congressman Manuel Lujan for decades are the best examples. Both the State Republican Party and the Bernalillo County Republican Party know Albuquerque is critical and they likely view the takeover of the Albuquerque City Council as the first major step to winning and returning to some semblance of power in next year’s midterms, perhaps even the Governor’s office with an upset.
DER FÜHRER TRUMP NEW MEXICO REPUBLICAN PARTY
On July 30, 2021 the 3 top officials of the Bernalillo County Republican Party resigned over party infighting and after an attempt to remove the party chairwoman. Resigning their positions were GOP County Chairwoman Julie Wright, Treasurer Joe Foor and Secretary Denise Foor. The 3 resigned over party infighting and after an attempt to remove party chairwoman Julie Wright. The 3 county GOP resignations came as the November 2 races for Albuquerque Mayor and City Council began to heat up and as the 2022 election cycle begins.
In her resignation letter, Wright charged that Republican State Chairman Steve Pearce had encouraged dissenters within the party. Wright wrote in part:
“… many RPNM officers fully support a small faction of [Trump] dissenters who are causing chaos within the party. … How am I supposed to help our candidates fight the Democrats when Steve Pearce allows and incentivizes a group of rogues to sow unrest amongst our party?”
At the core of the State Republican Party’s infighting is the loss of elections. In Albuquerque, only 2 Republican lawmakers are still in office out of more than 20 seats after Democratic gains in 2018 and 2020. A mere 8 years ago, Republicans held a super majority on the City Council and the Mayor of Albuquerque was Republican.
For the November 2 Albuquerque Municipal election, the Republican Party initially failed to find a viable candidate to run for Mayor of Albuquerque, with Republicans first ostensibly satisfied with supporting and voting for “Democrat In Name Only” Manny Gonzales who was a Trump supporter. Then radio talk show host and Der Führer Trump Republican Eddy Aragon got into the race very, very late, secured the required number of nominating petition signatures in 14 days and went on to secure 18% of the vote. It was no secret that Manny Gonzales was attempting to build a coalition of conservative Democrats, Republicans and Trump supporters and Aragon put an end to that as a spoiler in the race.
It is becoming more likely than not that Der Führer and former President Donald Trump will again be running again for President in 2024. Trump has already amassed a war chest of $102 million entering 2nd half of 2021.
Both the New Mexico Republican Party and Bernalillo County Republican party continue to grasp and acknowledge Der Führer Trump as their national leader. To this day, State Republican Chairman Steve Pearce and Southern New Mexico United States Congresswoman Yvette Harrel have refused to back away from Der Führer Trump and have failed to condemn his lies of widespread voter fraud.
DECEMBER 7 RUNOFF
The December 7 runoff will only be for District 7 and District 9 and for that reason the voter turnout will be dramatically lower. To complicate things is that the city council races are nonpartisan by state law and therefor party affiliation will not be delineated on the ballot.
It is common knowledge amongst political insiders that Republicans Lori Robertson in District 7 and Renee Grout in District 9 are both very right wing Der Führer Trump supporters. Robertson and Grout both avoid stating their party affiliation on the campaign materials as they rely on the misleading Republican ploy to lull Democrats to vote for them saying that municipal elections are non-partisan and “you should vote for the person and not the party.” Robertson and Grout are relying on Republican Party financial support, volunteer work and Republican measured finance committees.
FIRST RUNOFF STATEMENT
Both Republicans Lori Robertson in District 7 and Renee Grout in District 9 already have a distinct financial advantage over Democrats Tammy Fiebelkorn and Rob Grilley. On November 8, Healthy Economies Lead to Progress, the measured Finance Committee established to promote and support Republicans filed its Runoff Finance statement for the time period of October 30 to November 5 reporting no contributions and reporting it has a closing balance of $87,864.62 for the reporting period it can use for the city council runoff election.
CHAMPING AT THE BIT FOR AN UPSET
The Republican party, state and county, is no doubt champing at the bit to make progressive Democrat Mayor Tim Keller life’s miserable during his second term in an effort to end his political career. They know full well Keller could run for higher office which will likely be Governor. To complicate matters for Keller, Dan Lewis is returning to the city council and no matter if the council retains a Democrat majority it will be far more hostile to Keller than in 2017 when Lewis lost to Keller in a landslide.
Should there be a Republican takeover of the Albuquerque City Council, you can expect any number of setbacks of progressive programs and policies promoted by Keller and see advocacy of Republican policies and programs including but not limited to:
1. Repeal of the city’s immigration friendly policy that Republicans falsely label as sanctuary city.
2. Opposition to or perhaps repeal of the city’s minimum wage ordinance.
3. Opposition to any mandatory sick leave ordinances for the private sector.
4. Oppose enforcement by Mayor Keller of emergency health care orders for the Corona Virus Pandemic, including opposing any and all-mask mandates and opposing mandatory covid vaccinations of city employees.
5. Reduction in social service programs to help the homeless and the poor, including a scaling back of the Gateway Homeless shelter operations.
6. Advocacy of late term abortion prohibitions as was placed on the 2013 municipal ballot and which failed then.
7. Opposition to the Department of Justice mandated police reforms.
8. Oppose any and all increases in the gross receipts taxes or property taxes to fund city essential services even when deficits occur.
9. Advocate the reduction in the size of city government and eliminate new departments and programs created by Mayor Keller by denying funding for such Departments as the “Office of Equity and Inclusion” that deals with immigrant relations.
10. Advocacy of increased criminal penalties as part of the city’s legislative package and bail bond reform measures.
A FAILURE TO LEARN
Democrats have the bad habit of just not voting in municipal elections while Republicans make it a part of their practicing religion. The blunt truth is that Democrats lose elections in the city because they do not vote and Republicans rely on low voter turn outs and spend considerably more than Democrats to win municipal elections. That was the case in 2013 mayor’s race when only 19% voted and Democrats stayed home and it could easily happen again in this year’s city council race run off election.
A Republican takeover of the Albuquerque City Council is very doable with aggressive campaign spending coupled with a low voter turnout in a runoff with both expected. As is the case across the United States, the Bernalillo County and the State Republican Party’s both have a desire to set the tone for an upset in next year’s elections, especially the Governor’s race. Republicans believe a takeover of the Albuquerque City council will help to do that very thing.
If that happens, Democrats have only themselves to blame by never taking municipal elections seriously and failing to vote and failing to donate to Democratic candidates.
LINKS TO DONATE
The link to the Tammy Fiebelkorn District 7 campaign where you can volunteer and can make a donation is here:
The link to the Rob Grilley District 9 campaign where you can volunteer and can make a donation is here:
EDITOR’S DISLOSURE NOTICE:
www.PeteDinelli.com is a political blog established by a life long Democrat who ran for Mayor in 2013 and who was on the receiving end of nasty Republican smear tactics prepared and orchestrated by Republican Political operative Jay Mc Clusky who managed Mayor Berry’s campaign in the 2013 Mayor’s Race. “It’s my blog and I can do what I want, do what I want and you would cry foul too if it it happened to you!”